Digital rights in closing civic space: lessons from ten African countries

This report from UK think tank the Institute of Development Studies presents findings from ten digital rights landscape country reports.

The country reports analyse how the openings and closings of online civic space affect citizens’ digital rights. They show that: When civic space closes offline citizens often respond by opening civic space online. When civic space opens online governments often take measures to close online space. The resulting reduction in digital rights makes it impossible to achieve the kind of inclusive governance defined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We know far more about openings and closings of online civic space in the global North than we do in the global South. What little we do know about Africa is mainly about a single country, a single event, or single technology. For the first time, these reports make possible a comparative analysis of openings and closings of online civic space in Africa. They document 65 examples of the use of digital technologies to open online civic space and 115 examples of techniques used to close online civic space. The five tactics used most often to close online civic space in Africa are digital surveillance, disinformation, internet shutdowns, legislation, and arrests for online speech.

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